straight from the hip Neither distance nor language can interfere with the sharing between us
The plane finally landed around 2 a.m. after an eight-hour delay in Ottawa. As there was not much happening in Charlottetown at that time, a few lawyers on the plane offered a ride to the hotel. My luggage however did not arrive and so I spoke to the sole person in the airport to make a luggage claim. Well, she could not do a lot about the luggage — it was likely in Zimbabwe or somewhere — but I was the same size as her niece. What would I need? I explained that the next day, which was the first of 10 on the road, was to be spent between farm calls, a meeting with the Cattlemen’s Association and a formal speaking engagement that night.
The hotel was only a few miles away but by the time the lawyers dropped me off there was a package containing a pair of rubber boots, coveralls, soap, toothpaste, change of clothes and — a bag of potatoes. Welcome to P.E.I!
This is one of the many memories that make me smile. After tens of thousands of miles and thousands of days away from home over 25 years, the journey has been well worth it.
As farmers, we have so much in common. Go to a beach, car show, park, church service or any gathering and farmers will join with other farmers. It is the same travelling — you are never really away — just with a group of new friends. Neither distance nor language can interfere with the sharing between us. We are rooted and grown in the soil on which we stand.
Of course on this trip, the fun did not stop in the Maritimes. My luggage caught up with me a week later in Toronto, as did other gifts, a book, a crystal tray and a basketball (yes a basketball). The snowstorm that blew in while I was carrying all these things forced me to the home of Mrs. Heintzmen (of Heintzmen Pianos) which was a visit I remember with sincere warmth. I added an antique treasure from her and then after five more nights came home weary and happy only to pack and leave in a few days to do it all over again across the Prairies, through the mountains or deep in the Interlake.
Repeatedly, folks were gracious and kind and added weight to my bags with clothing, bison tooth checkers, jam, art, syrup, clocks and so much more. (Being a quick study I once traded my time for a bag of oats, woollen mittens, grass seed and a wheel barrel of other goodies.) Oh the fun we have had! Try getting fresh eggs through airport security!
I never see agriculture in a negative light because I know her people. Nor has agriculture ever given me any chance for sorrow, for it has been good to me. With the grace and protection of God, my travels have taken me across Canada more than a dozen times and I have had the honour of visiting hundreds of farms. These kitchen table, board room and back-40 meetings privilege me to the lives of those who grow our food, feed our animals and manage our environment in Canada. They are the foundation of our nation and the true reason for our prosperity. And it is the men and women of agriculture who build not only outstanding communities, they grow outstanding people. Who would not have a preference of a young man or woman with an agricultural background on their team?
Pride shows itself in many forms. The soft pet of the family dog, a roar around the field in a new tractor, the kiss to a baby’s cheek, a sweeping gesture over land, a bountiful garden, a beautiful quilt, a new software program or technology, a community leadership program, a faithful employee or a child who came back home to invest in and live on the farm. A bedraggled traveller such as me is witness to these stories and to this pride in every corner of our nation. Is that not amazing?
Is it not amazing that communities can build first-class facilities with seemingly no budget? Is it not amazing that every farm table can be fully dressed in a heartbeat even when the fridge appears empty? Is it not amazing that after years of setbacks, farms continue to thrive and is it not amazing that our strongest leaders, best professionals and advocates for social change and most creative artists all came from rural Canada?
It is staggering to think of the contribution that rural people make to urban wealth and security. To say that farmers are the foundation of a nation perhaps sells them short. They are the nation — for every civilization evolves around one thing — the production of food. I get to see farmers do just that from coast to coast. It doesn’t get more exciting than that!
I am often asked how I remain so passionate about agriculture. It is tough, demanding, exhausting and complicated, especially when you are farming and on the road with your family back at home. The answer is simple. With or without luggage — I am always surrounded by caring, intelligent, respectful, creative, talented, hard-working, sincere people. I am always surrounded by farmers — they are my reward and that makes every mile a memory.